Why you should visit Finger Lakes wine country


Written by:

Joe Becerra

Last updated:

One of many small producers in the Finger Lakes
One of many small producers in the Finger Lakes

We spent five days in the Finger Lakes wine country touring the area with a group of wine bloggers.  In our wine blogging adventures we spent time in the lakes of Seneca, Cayuga, and Keuka. The beauty of the area is breathtaking. The lakes, the cumulus cloud formations and the colorful barns provide an amazing backdrop for the vineyards. In short, it is a wine country paradise. The most well known grape variety throughout the Finger Lakes is Riesling. It flourishes here and is made in various forms from dry to sweet. It is delicious in all flavors. There are 400 wineries in the Finger Lakes region. We had a chance to visit several wineries on our excursions, plus taste many more of the Finger Lake wines at tasting events at the Wine Bloggers Conference.  Here is why we think you should visit the Finger Lakes wine country.

People of the Finger Lakes

Federick Merwarth winemaker
Federick Merwarth, winemaker at Herman J. Wiemer Vineyard

The Finger Lakes is an agricultural community with the wineries taking center stage. Almost all the wineries are family owned and on the boutique scale of wine production. There is a sense of congeniality and cooperation among the winery owners and the winemakers. The ones we met had nothing but praise for their neighboring wineries. Women have taken a forceful role in the Finger Lakes, with several at the head winemaking position. There is a sense of calm within all these folks and their passion runs high for their wines and the wines of Finger Lakes.

Seneca Lake - Fox Run Vineyards
Seneca Lake – Fox Run Vineyards

The Lakes

The lakes are stunning in beauty and their waters are clear and sparkling. A little of what the people said about the lakes: “The water is so pure, I’ve been drinking the water from the lake for 30 years.” “You can drop a quarter 30 feet down and clearly see it from the surface.” “Every sunset on the lake is different.” The lakes also bring cooling temperatures to the vines. Over geological time, the lakes have receded and provided a top layer of sandy soil for the vines. Seneca Lake, Cayuga Lake and Keuka Lake each have a designated wine trail. In Cayuga, there exists what just might be the only wine trail accessible by boat. There are six wineries on Cayuga Lake that have boating docks. There are two boat skippers who provide touring for interested wine country travelers. What a beauty of a way to tour the wineries!

The Wines

It is the soil that makes this area unique. When the glaciers came to the area and then receded, they churned the deeper layers of soil into many flavors. From one vineyard to the next, the terroir can be very different. Indeed, we did a side-by-side tasting of two Riesling wines from Fox Run Vineyards. The grapes from these two vineyards were picked the same day and produced in identical ways. The two wines were amazingly different. Besides Riesling wines, other white varieties do well in the Finger Lakes. We tasted excellent Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gruner Vetliner and Gerwurztraminer. In the red department, the most popular and best growing grape is Cabernet Franc. Some of the wineries produce Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.lemberger Hybrids take a center stage in the Finger Lakes. One of the wines we liked very much is called Traminette. This hybrid grape was created in 1965 and is a cross between a little known French variety, Joannes Seyve, and Gerwurztraminer. The resulting hybrid is resistant to many fungi pests and does very well in the cold. Traminette wines have the distinctive liche nut characteristic of a pure Gerwurztraminer but also an added touch of crispness. The other popular hybrid is a red by the name of Lemberger. Perhaps it is the name, but I tried several Lembergers and they were all too tart for my palate.

The amazing thing about the wines of the Finger Lakes is that almost all the wines are priced under $20. Perhaps for this reason, plus the small production amount, the wineries sell out of their wines. Some are exported, but most stay in the New York state. Many of the wineries only sell out of their tasting room or their online Web store. Before we left for the Finger Lakes, I wanted to taste a few of the Finger Lakes wines. I was able to find only one wine, a Herman J. Wiemer Riesling wine at one wine shop. Frankly, I do not think that will change much. It seems the vintners in the Finger Lakes have no strong interest in ramping up wine production. The are just happy folks making enough wine to keep them busy and proud. This is all the more reason why you should visit the Finger Lakes. It is unlike any wine region I have visited. The Fingers Lakes is truly “A sense of place.”

Where to stay in Finger Lakes Wine Country

The nearest airport to the Finger Lakes is Elmira Airport. We stayed in Corning, a wonderful small town and home to the Corning Corporation. The Corning Radisson Inn was headquarters for the wine bloggers and is roughly an hour’s drive to many of the 400 Finger Lake wineries. Each lake area offers a variety of Bed & Breakfast choices and home vacation rentals. Check the Finger Lakes Wine Country Website for a complete list of places to stay.

The Sights and Sounds of the Finger Lakes

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

1 thought on “Why you should visit Finger Lakes wine country”

  1. Great job capturing the spirit of camaraderie between the Finger Lakes winemakers. I was struck by how they seemed content with small distributions–they have to be, knowing that the region isn’t suited for amping up their productions! But I think they also enjoy it, being able to focus on improving the quality of their wines over meeting increasing market demand.

Comments are closed.